12 Holiday (and All-Year-Round) Tips to Protect Your Online Reputation
Everyone looks forward to the holidays. Not only is it a great time to catch up with friends and family, it’s fun to search online for special gifts to give. Before you get your credit card ready to shop online, remember that hackers and cybercriminals also look forward to this time of year. The holidays are the perfect time to launch scams of every type, and if you’re one of the many who get taken in by these swindles, you could lose your personal information, financial data and even your good online reputation. This article will list 12 online tips to protect your online reputation during the holiday season.
Cybercriminals are individuals who launch fraudulent websites, create fake email campaigns and spend their time attempting to access the personal information of website shoppers. Shoppers should exercise caution when using the World Wide Web as their main stop for gift giving. Here are some tips to protect your online reputation and things you can do to keep ahead of criminal scams.
Tip #1: Protect against fake charity scams.
People feel extra generous during the holidays, and your local charities know that. Cybercriminals also take advantage of generous givers by sending out emails disguised as messages from legitimate charities. This process is called “phishing,” and these scams are often accompanied by fake websites designed to gain access to your personal data and your identity. These hackers could pose as you on the Web and potentially destroy your online reputation.
Tip #2: Control your inbox and avoid fake email campaigns.
Watch out for fake email campaigns appearing to be from FedEx and UPS that send invoices through email, asking you to log in and pay them. The hackers are attempting to gain access to your personal information and billing data. Clicking on these links could result in your electronic privacy being invaded, as well as spyware being installed on your computer.
Tip #3: Avoid holiday e-cards.
Holiday e-cards are fun to receive. If you receive an e-card from an address you don’t recognize, don’t open it. Legitimate e-cards contain your contact’s email address as well as a personal message. False e-cards are designed to install viruses or spyware on your computer.
Tip #4: Protect your online reputation by not shopping on “bargain” websites.
When you have your eye on a certain gift this holiday season, be sure you can verify the legitimacy of any website that offers your item at bargain prices. Cybercriminals will set up false websites that post hot holiday items at discounted rates. These sites are full of spyware and viruses. Focus your online shopping on websites that practice brand reputation management.
Tip #5: Prevent online identity theft by shopping on protected Wi-Fi networks.
Online identity theft is one of the biggest issues associated with shopping online. Although it’s tempting to relax in your local coffee shop and spend hours surfing the World Wide Web, it’s best to leave your credit card in your wallet until you get home. Unsecured Wi-Fi networks that have no privacy controls can leave your personal information visible to any hacker who wishes to gain access to it. When the hackers have obtained your information, they can pose as you online and could potentially destroy your good Internet reputation in a matter of hours.
Tip #6: Stay merry this season by avoiding social networking scams.
’Tis the season to gain new friends on social networks. Being aware of where your friend or follow requests come from is an important step in protecting your online reputation. Cybercriminals can create a fake website that looks just like Facebook. Never click on a friend request link. Instead, visit your profile on Facebook by going directly to the website. Facebook is a powerful website, and if a hacker gains access, he or she could potentially ruin your online reputation.
Tip #7: Change your password frequently.
Using the same password while shopping on various websites this holiday season can result in having your bank account information and personal information stolen. Create a new password for each website you shop on, and be sure to use letters, numbers and various characters as opposed to simple words.
Tip #8: Prevent malware by avoiding holiday ringtones.
It’s tempting to download festive holiday backgrounds and ringtones for your phone, but beware of the websites that you download from. Hackers know how to create sites for the purpose of installing viruses and malware, so be sure you verify the legitimacy of the website before you click. It’s a good idea to check whether the company that owns the website practices corporate brand management before you allow them to send you files.
Tip #9: Delete work-at-home emails.
You use your credit card frequently during the holiday season, and it becomes overwhelming when you try to figure out how to pay your bills. You may be tempted by the “work at home” email you received in your inbox, but be wary of clicking on it. Work-at-home scams target stay-at-home mothers and desperate job seekers. Often these “opportunities” involve your paying some sort of fee. A good rule of thumb for work-at-home opportunities: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Tip #10: Auction deals aren’t always legitimate.
The best deals online are often on auction websites, but beware of bargains or impossible-to-find gifts going for rock-bottom prices. Scammers set up shop on auction sites during the holiday season. If you order from them, you may lose your money and never actually receive your purchase.
Tip #11: Know how to spot a false bank statement.
Receiving your bank statements online helps save trees, but if you aren’t on top of what your electronic statement looks like, you could be scammed. Fake emails will direct you to a website that will ask for your financial information. When accessed, the cybercriminals take your personal information and often sell it to a black market that specializes in online identity theft.
Tip #12: Protect your personal Wi-Fi connection.
Putting a lock on your personal Wi-Fi network is important when shopping online. Hackers cruise through neighborhoods searching for unsecured networks. They can then transfer your files to their computer and hold them hostage for money. If you have personal data on your computer, be sure that it isn’t accessible through any publicly shared folders. Also, make sure you turn encryption on for your wireless network, using a password.
These tips to protect your online reputation are only some of many. ReputationDefender has many more articles about ORM and how to prevent your private data from being used against you.